The Road Trip Back to Chicago

Ok this is out of order as it is my latest trip, but I’m simply too excited with how awesome the trip was that I just had to share pictures. Believe it or not, this album is only the best pictures from the trip. I still have many more!

The harsh realization that I am permanently back in the midwest is sinking in.  While the leaves are turning beautiful colors and reminding me why I love fall the most, I am sorely missing the mountains. When I first arrived in California, I mistakenly thought that the hills were mountains. I now know the difference. What we call hills in Chicago are really just bumps.

I hope you enjoy the pictures and are inspired to make a trek out west and go on an adventure.

The Road Trip Back
Categories: Uncategorized

The Big Bro Visits

So Big Bro Joel was supposed to visit me first in cali but was a little delayed. Nevertheless, he upheld his promise and showed up in November of 2008, and we went to my favorite place in the whole world again. Yosemite! Of course, we couldn’t do the same trail as last time because we’re the adventurous sort so we hiked to the top of Yosemite Falls (The highest waterfall in North America). Since it was fall, we were lucky that it had recently rained so that the fall was kinda big. In general, we got some nice fall colors and an awesome hike.

Fall in Yosemite

At the trailhead, we were pretty excited. We had already seen a bobcat and some deer. We were ready for adventure.

Trailhead Yosemite Falls

We climbed to the top of that waterfall!Yosemite Falls

Overall, the Upper Yosemite Falls trail is rated Chipmunk (very strenuous). It is nearly 7 miles round trip, and it’s an uphill climb the entire time and is pretty steep. It has tons of switchbacks and stairs.  On the way down, it can be extremely slippery as Joel found out. (See his sad face)

Joel Falls Down at Yosemite

However, he wasn’t too sad for long because we ended our trip at In N Out.

In N Out with Joel

Upper Yosemite Falls is a great hike but you want to be in somewhat good shape before attempting it. If you aren’t ready to go to the top of the falls, there is an easy hike to go to the base of lower yosemite falls where you can see upper yosemite falls.

Where it all began

September 26, 2011 4 comments

It’s hard to believe, but the first time I went to a national park was just 3 years ago. May 1, 2008. It changed my life! My awesome Northwestern buddies Lis and Amado flew out to visit, and we had a jam packed weekend starting with a day trip to Yosemite. After driving through winding roads and seeing the Tunnel View, I was hooked.

Yosemite will always be my favorite park, and I thank God for making such a beautiful place. I went from not really knowing what I wanted to do with my life to pursuing environmental engineering to protect God’s creation, and it has been an amazing journey. One day, I will get married here. After I climb half dome. Clearly a lot of coordination will be necessary but it’ll happen. Just be happy that I’ve given up on the idea of getting married on top of half dome.

So Yosemite trip #1…

We drove in from the south on 41 because we wanted to see the Tunnel View (this was slightly erroneous but it worked out). It’s a super windy road that can make many carsick. Once in Yosemite, we headed to Mariposa Grove of GIANT sequoias and hung out with some big trees. We found 3 tree stumps for 3 people and started taking jumping pictures. We don’t give up and keep trying until it happens.

Then, we headed north and were faked out by a couple tunnels and eventually saw the infamous Tunnel View.

You know when you hit the tunnel view

Onward to Yosemite Valley, we headed up the Mist Trail to Vernal Falls and then to the top of Nevada Falls before taking the John Muir trail back down. Spring is the best time to go to Yosemite for massive waterfalls. Hiking the mist trail, we got soaked from the waterfall spray. Make sure you have sturdy shoes that are not too slippery. At the top of Vernal, there is a huge granite rock where people dry off in the sun and have a picnic. To the base of Vernal Falls is a moderate hike.  Getting to the top of the falls requires walking up some slippery steps. Most people turn back at the base, and even more leave after the top of Vernal. However, if you continue to the top of Nevada, there are fewer people and it’s also a great waterfall. Swinging back on the John Muir trail provides panoramic views of the Vernal and Nevada falls.

On the way back, we finished off the day with some In n Out in Manteca. And thus, began an amazing tradition: A full day of hiking and magnificence in Yosemite capped off with some delicious In n Out burgers.

RECAP: (My own evaluation scheme… Turtle = Easy; Puppy = Moderate; Mountain Goat = Strenuous; Chipmunk = Very Strenuous)
Mariposa Grove (Turtle) About 1 mile and is a quick hike.
Mist Trail to Vernal (Puppy and Mountain Goat) and Nevada Falls (Mountain Goat) return on John Muir Trail (Puppy) About 5.5 miles overall and took around 5 hours to do with ample time for picture taking.

Goodbye Cali.

September 7, 2011 5 comments

It is with great sadness that I am leaving California. I really enjoyed my past year here and wish I could stay! (yes, I never finished recapping, I’ll continue that later). I’m saying my goodbyes and realizing how many great friends I’ve made here. I hate goodbyes.

Anyways, the one benefit of going back to Chicago is a ROADTRIP! One of my old friends from high school is joining me and we are hitting up all 5 national parks in Utah. That’s right: Zion, Bryce, Arches, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef! I’m pumped for our trip, and we’re starting to get things together. Of course, we are blasting through these parks so I need your help to suggest trails and must-see things. Also on the roadtrip…SLO, Vegas, Denver, and Omaha! It’s gonna be awesome.

For your response, I promise to send you a postcard from one of the parks. Seriously, I just went to the post office and bought postcard stamps.

Stanford. (The spanish colonial looking country club at the end of University Ave)

Contrary to my adamant proclamations of never staying in california and always returning to chicago…circumstances have changed and I am much more adventurous now. I dunno where I will end up (i keep hoping new zealand) but I love cali (the north part, not the south) due to the awesome 3 years i’ve had here.


Stanford, the epic university that I once was dying to go to until I got my first B in high school at which point I changed my mind and decided Duke would be an easier goal. One of my friends even gave me a Stanford hoodie. Fortunately, I got to put it to good use. Obviously, I spent undergrad at NU (GO CATS!), and I never imagined I would ever end up at Stanford. In all honesty, I didn’t actually know where palo alto was situated in California. Imagine my surprise when I moved to Berkeley and discovered Stanford across the Bay. Living in Berkeley, I had already been coming to Stanford for FH games and rugby national championships and other cal vs. stanford festivities so I was somewhat familiar with the area already. However, as often is the case with me, I had spent the majority of my time on the athletic fields so the actual campus was still breathtaking. Although my walk to class was a good 20 minutes and I adamantly refused to get a bicycle after seeing so many bike collisions (with pedestrians, cars, bikes, and trees), every day I just felt so blessed to be at this amazing beautiful campus.

I was cruel at times and would send picture texts to people in Chicago especially during the winter.


Stanford’s campus is absolutely stunning. Literally, busloads of tourists, usually asian, would come visit and take pictures. At times, I felt like I was a zoo exhibit with all these photographers. I used to avoid getting in people’s pictures but because there were so many people trying to take pictures and I was trying to get to class, I started just walking through pictures. I’m sure I’m in 100+ random photos. Likewise, there would be prom/wedding/engagement/graduation photo shoots all the time. Basically, Stanford’s campus is worth a visit.

Overall, I was absolutely thrilled with my decision to get my Masters in Environmental Engineering here. Every week there were brilliant speakers and engaging lectures. In one week, THREE former Secretary of States were around for various reasons. It was not unusual to hear a lecturer start with “When I was working with Ronald Reagan…”

Of course, no school is fun without great study buddies and friends. I was really nervous about finding people to study with because at NU, I worked with the same group of friends for years! I always had a group, and I knew they would work hard. Fortunately, within the first week of class, I met some awesome people. The streak continues… spoiled by God and given amazing friends.

Recapping the past year.

Considering I haven’t posted very much, most of you probably have no idea what has been going on with me in the last year. Even though I spent the majority of my time studying, I did make some time for fun. Over the next few days, I’ll try to briefly summarize the top moments of my year. Then, when I finally see many of you, I won’t have to recap as much! I have way too many pictures to ever show you all of them on a blog, and it would probably bore most of you, but if you’re interested in seeing more, I’d love to share. Anyways, let’s get started…


Just getting to Stanford was quite the adventure. After returning from China, I had only a few days to get over jet lag and pack my life into Dobby (my trustworthy honda civic). Jirou joined me for an epic 1 week blitz from Chicago to Palo Alto with stops at 5 National Parks: Badlands, Wind Cave, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Great Basin. I wish we had been able to spend more time at each park. Each park is so different yet still amazing. At Badlands, we wandered the trails wary of the many notices to not leave the trails as many people have gotten lost. At wind cave national park, we did a quick cave tour with a guide who has discovered 2 of his own caves which he got to name. And then Yellowstone. Yellowstone is famous for a reason. It is absolutely breathtaking. This year, we checked out the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and Mammoth Hot Springs. We also swam around in the boiling river. Note: There are TWO natural swimming holes at Yellowstone. One is freezing. One is a hot tub where you can put one foot in hot water coming from the hot spring and one foot in the frigid river. It is so cool! Grand Tetons has become my 2nd favorite park behind only Yosemite. Its towering mountains are awe-inspiring and make me want to climb to the top of them (I might have a little bit of Zach adventure gene in me after all). Then, we drove to the middle of nowhere for Great Basin National Park, I got to touch my first glacier. We also saw several bristlecone trees that are among the oldest living things on the planet with one tree reaching 4,950 years. Driving the “loneliest road in America” (it is really called that and it is REALLY lonely), we cut through Nevada and headed for Cali. All in all, it was the perfect beginning to a second start in California.


It may be because I am staring at the end of my graduate school career (for now) or that I am studying for my last final (ok I admit, I’m procrastinating), but I suddenly really miss my NU study buddies. We made it through chemical engineering, and I can honestly say that I never would have graduated without them.

The one on the left is now a super duper legit ChemE.

The one in the middle  got her Master’s degree in Biotechnology and is now researching drugs to help save people.

And the last one is heading to school for his PhD.

Clearly, they’re all brilliant. I could use some of their brain power now. I miss them.